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5 Bird Species Lose Protections, More at Risk in New Indonesia Decree

  • Five bird species in Indonesia have lost their protected status under a new ministerial decree, issued last month in response to complaints from songbird collectors.
  • The decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, which effectively sets the stage for any species to be dropped from the list if it is deemed of high economic value to the songbird fan community.
  • Scientists and wildlife experts have criticized the removal of the five species from the protected list, and the new criteria for granting protected status.
  • Indonesia is home to the largest number of threatened bird species in Asia, but their populations in the wild are severely threatened by overexploitation.

JAKARTA — A new decree from Indonesian authorities drops five bird species from a newly expanded list of protected wildlife, and potentially sets the stage for more to follow by widening the scope under which protected status can be rescinded.

The capture and trade of the white-rumped shama (Kittacincla malabarica), Javan pied starling (Gracupica jalla), straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus), Sangihe shrikethrush (Colluricincla sanghirensis) and little shrikethrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha) will remain illegal without a government permit, but the lack of protected status means violators won’t face the jail time or hefty fines prescribed in the 1990 Conservation Act.

Four of the birds were among hundreds of species added to the ministry’s list of protected species this past June. The fifth bird, the little shrikethrush, was on the original list published in 1999. All five have now been removed from the list following the publication on Sept. 5 of a decree from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry

The capture of wild birds is to be regulated through a government permit-and-quota system that is supposed to consider recommendations from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), a state-funded think tank. Mohammad Irham, a senior ornithologist at LIPI, said his institution would reject requests to capture any of the five now-unprotected species from the wild.

He criticized the rescinding of their protected status, saying it would hasten their decline in the wild. “Our decision is based on scientific data, papers and surveys on the populations of these species in the wild,” he told Mongabay.

The ministerial decree also establishes additional guidelines for birds to be granted protected status, such as the popularity of a given species for breeding and for songbird competitions.

Under current rules, protected status can be granted to a species that is native to Indonesia, has a limited range, and has a small and dwindling population. But the decree adds new criteria for birds alone: the popularity of a species among breeders and hobbyists, the extent to which it contributes to people’s livelihoods, and the frequency with which it appears in songbird competitions.

“There’s a huge local economy aspect to the birdkeeping business,” Wiratno, the environment ministry’s director general for biodiversity conservation, told reporters on Oct. 2.

Read more5 Bird Species Lose Protections, More at Risk in New Indonesia Decree